Sunday, June 26, 2011

Compromise - part 1

This morning I woke up at . I left Violet and Linda, sleeping lovely and warm, and I silently dressed. I scrounged a quick breakfast, and went out our back door. The birds were performing their dawn chorus, although sunrise was still 15 minutes off. I got in my car and drove the few minutes to Beaver Meadow, where the nets were already set up for a morning of bird banding. Two other volunteers were already there, waiting, and we headed out into the Arboretum, a several-acre mix of mowed and wild grassy areas, peppered throughout and bordered by shrubs of all sizes. Scattered in and along the shrubby borders were nine mist nets, and we moved from one to the next, opening them tall and wide. Then, we went to our staging area, a sheltered picnic table, and laid out our tools – banding pliers, bags for holding birds, our collection of tiny numbered bands. For the next six hours, we visited the nets at half hour intervals, extracting the birds and bringing them back to our table to band them, take measurements, and figure out age, sex, and species before releasing them.

Common birds passed through our hands – chickadees and catbirds, as well as the extraordinary – hooded warblers, eastern towhees, blue winged warblers, and one of us even released a hummingbird from our nets. A friend came to help about halfway through, someone new to banding, and I showed her the process, allowing her to execute the final step; I placed the bird in her cupped hands and she opened them a moment later to release it, fluttering and scolding back to where it belonged, a look on her face that all of us should get to have more often.

More than once, while taking a bird out of a net or opening my hands to let it go, I thought about how much I enjoyed it and how I wished Violet were old enough to be there, but I also wondered if, when she was old enough, I would still be doing it or want her to do it. For me, bird banding is something miraculous, but at the same time, it’s something that I wrestle with ethically, but that’s a post for tomorrow.

217 days old
Thanks to MJ for the bird banding pics!

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